World Cup in Qatar takes a toll on the environment

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Grace Smith | December 8, 2022

With thousands of international flights, numerous lighting illuminating the field, and an air-conditioned outdoor stadium, critics say the Qatar Soccer World Cup is environmentally harmful. Several environmentally-cautious professional players wrote an open letter to FIFA, urging FIFA to stop claiming that Qatar 2022 is carbon neutral. 

“The tournament has been labeled as the first ‘fully carbon neutral FIFA World Cup tournament,’ meaning its overall impact on the planet should be zero,” the letter said. “But that’s not true… In reality, FIFA’s sustainability strategy for the Qatar World Cup rests on flawed carbon calculations, questionable offsetting practices, and shifting the responsibility onto fans rather than shouldering it themselves.”

FIFA said the total number of greenhouse gas emissions in the Qatar World Cup will be 5.4 million tons of carbon dioxide, which will be mitigated by “low-carbon solutions” in Qatar and the Gulf region. 

Restaurants and pubs in France, Germany, and Britain pledged to not show the World Cup on their televisions. NBC said a broadcaster and retired soccer player also boycotted the tournament.

Bird flu in Iowa for a few more weeks

Wild Turkey
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Elyse Gabor | December 7, 2022

Bird flu has been sweeping through Iowa and it is here to stay. According to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the most recent case of the virus was found at a Buena Vista County commercial turkey facility. Around 40,000 birds are in that facility. 

Fall and this time of year are when the state sees the most bird migration, usually leading to flocks becoming infected with the contagious bird flu. This was the third case detected in Iowan backyard flocks.  

Waterfowl, like geese and ducks, have also been detected with the virus as hunters have tested them. Orrin Jones, the DNR’s waterfowl biologist said, “It’s very difficult to predict the prevalence of avian influenza based solely on waterfowl activity.” He went on to say, “How common is it out there? What types of birds is it affecting? This new strain is affecting a wider range of species and having a wider range of effects than previous strains. There’s still a lot of uncertainty.” 

About 53 million birds have been killed by the avian influenza, this year in the U.S. This fall, the pathogen was detected in five flocks, leading to the deaths of over two million birds. Although deadly to birds, the virus is not a significant health risk to humans.  

Parking lots, solar energy vital in climate change efforts

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Grace Smith | December 6, 2022

Parking lots where electric vehicles charge is vital in climate change efforts and carbon reduction. A law in France, which was approved in November, now requires parking lots with 80 or more spaces to have solar panels covering the cars. With lots with over 400 cars have three years to ensure half of their lot is covered in solar panels. 

All around the United States, solar and renewable energy are being put to use, or a plan is in action. A target in California created solar panel carports or automobile shelters. In addition, Home Depot hopes to run just on renewable energy by 2030, and Walmart hopes to do the same by 2040. 

“You have a lot of significant companies that have stepped up and made commitments to renewable energy and similar things with local governments and institutions. So, there’s no doubt that that level of investment has accelerated the development of technology, the deployment of more cost-effective solar,” Bill Abolt, vice president and lead of energy business for infrastructure consulting firm AECOM, told CNBC

Per CNBC, solar carports and rooftops are currently the main sources of solar energy in the real estate market. To ensure solar energy continues in the right direction, state governments are incentivizing solar energy, including the 2018 Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target, and the Maryland Energy Administration Solar Canopy Grant Program. This program provides funding to encourage the use of carports and parking garages. The program has given $250,000 to each solar carport project to continue promoting the use of solar energy in parking lots.

Hawaii CO2 monitor lab interrupted by Mauna Loa eruption

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Grace Smith | December 2, 2022

The Mauna Loa eruption on the morning of Nov. 28 caused a 124-foot tower, which collects carbon dioxide measurements nearly every hour for over 60 years, to stop operating Nov. 28. The tracker is not currently gathering data on rising level heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere after the eruptions’ lava flow shut down power in the lab. 

The Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, erupted on Nov. 28 for the first time since 1984 and oozed lava on the volcano’s summit. Per the U.S. Geological Service, the lava contained within the summit does not impact downslope Hawaiians.

The carbon dioxide measurement lab, known as the Keeling Curve, is proof that human activity is causing climate change. Geoscientist Ralph Keeling, son of Keeling Curve creator Charles David Keeling, said the future carbon dioxide readings from the lab are “very troubling.” 

Charles Keeling originally selected Hawaii for the location of the famous recording system because, with the distance from Hawaii to other major land masses and the mountain’s landscape, there would be no contamination from the photosynthetic activity of plants in the area.

“The observatory will eventually come back, but it’s going to take a long time before it’s really back to normal,” Ralph Keeling said. “There’ll be a gap, and it’s too bad. It’s a really fantastic and important long-term record.”

Major world glaciers to disappear by 2050

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Grace Smith | December 1, 2022

Some of the world’s most major and famous glaciers will disappear after melting by 2050, according to a U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization report. These major glaciers include the Dolomites in Italy, the Yosemite and Yellowstone parks in the U.S., and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

UNESCO observes and studies 18, 600 glaciers around the world, and said by 2050, a third of them will be gone because of climate change. By 2100, 50 percent of all World Heritage Site glaciers — well-known, large, and highly visible glaciers around the world — will have fully melted. Half of the world’s population relies on water from glaciers for domestic, agricultural, and power use.

“This report is a call to action. Only a rapid reduction in our CO2 emissions levels can save glaciers and the exceptional biodiversity that depends on them,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said in a statement.

Keeping the global temperature increase at 1.3 degrees Celsius, compared to preindustrial levels, could save the other two-thirds of the World Heritage Site glaciers. Since 1970, the global temperature rise has been 1.7 degrees Celsius per century. But, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, global temperatures are likely to increase by about 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050 and two to four degrees Celsius by 2100.

Hawaiian volcano erupts for first time since 1984

Mauna Loa looms over Kīlauea
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Elyse Gabor | November 30, 2022

Mauna Loa erupts for the first time in 40 years. Located in Hawaii National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii, the world’s largest active volcano erupted on Sunday, November 27th, at 11:30 p.m. after large earthquakes that had occurred earlier. Some homeowners in the lava flow path have been evacuated, but no immediate danger is present.  

In their latest update, the U.S. Geological Survey said, “Lava flows are not threatening any downslope communities.” However, the agency warned that residents should remain alert and diligent saying, “the early stages of a Mauna Loa rift zone eruption can be very dynamic, and the location and advance of lava flows can change rapidly.” 

Ken Hon, the scientist-in-charge at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, told The Associated Press, “Typically, Mauna Loa eruptions start off with the heaviest volume first.” He went on to say that the eruption should slow down in a few days.  

According to scientists, as of now, the lava is slow moving and could take days to reach cities on the east side of the island.  

Major source of Iowa air pollution has operated without permit updates for decades

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Grace Smith | November 29, 2022

For decades, a large gas-powered dryer in Muscatine, Iowa, that processes sand that it sells has not obtained updated permits to be able to operate the dryer, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. 

Northern Filter Media, the company operating the gas-powered dryer, has been operating for over 100 years. In 1985, the company put in a new burner for the dryer, which was renovated in 2002, 2017, and 2020. 

Per the DNR, Northern Filter Media has operated the sand dryer unpermitted since its installation and the renovations. The DNR ordered the company a fine of $10,000. 

“This place has been there since 1914, and this is the first time this has come up,” said Vince Brown, a manager at the facility. “We don’t know what to do. We don’t know what the process is.”

In 2021, in an inspection of documents the DNR gathered of the Northern Filter Media, the department confirmed the facility is likely a “major source” of air pollutants following state rules and could deal with permit requirements based on Title V of the federal Clean Air Act.

As temperatures rise, fungal infections are spreading

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Elyse Gabor | November 28, 2022

As temperatures warm, fungal infections are expected to spread outside of their typical regions. Currently, around 10% of infections are found in environments outside of where the fungus grew.  

Dr. George Thompson, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, Davis, said, “We’re definitely seeing disease in locations that we previously have not.” 

Thompson went on to say, “And that’s concerning, because if we’re recognizing those locations, where are the places it’s occurring that just have not been recognized quite yet?” Due to the lack of data, mistreatments are common, and it is hard for scientists to gauge how common fungal infections are. 

Fungal infections happen after an open sore has occurred on the body. Most immune systems fight it off, leaving people with symptoms like that of colds or cases of flu. However, some people can get more severe symptoms or even illnesses because of the infection, including meningitis or pneumonia.  

Polar bears continue to move inland as ice melts, creating danger for people

Polar Bear
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Elyse Gabor | November 21, 2022

As the ice melts in arctic regions, polar bears are pushed onto land. Their territories will now range into small towns. Researchers in Churchill, Manitoba, also known as the polar bear capital of the world, have begun to explore how to detect the animal’s presence in remote areas through radar technology. The instruments could be in use by next summer.  

Due to polar bears’ aggressive and dangerous nature, they pose a threat to civilization. By using technology that costs thousands of dollars, the animals can be tracked, helping to prevent any unwanted conflict. 

Senior director of conservation and staff scientist, Geoff York, said, “If we’re asking people to conserve a large predator like a polar bear, we have to make sure people who live and work with them are safe.” 

According to York, “Churchill is unique in that bears come to shore, depending on the year, from July to August, and they’re on land until this time of year.” Churchill has around 800 polar bears that roam its shores.  

As rising temperatures and global warming continue to melt ice, polar bears spend more time on land. It’s predicted that a larger number of polar bears will be forced on land and near the town. So, the response program will help to ensure people’s safety.  

Hundreds of thousands of tons of bacteria are released from melting glaciers

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Grace Smith | November 18, 2022

Hundreds of thousands of tons of bacteria are being released annually into the air through melting glaciers in the northern latitudes, a study in the Communications Earth & Environment reported. Glaciers melting because of global warming could cause a release of 650,000 tons of carbon a year for the next 80 years in the northern hemisphere. 

Scientists from the journal collected data from eight glaciers across Europe and North America and found that tens of thousands of microbes are in each milliliter of water. This data helped the researchers to estimate that the bacteria being swept through streams and water would be 650,000 tons of carbon a year. 

“We are seeing the glaciers die before our eyes, affecting the microbes that are there, with implications for us locally and globally,” Dr. Arwyn Edwards, a member of the study team told The Guardian. “The mass of microbes released is vast even with moderate warming.”

Edwards said the researchers don’t have enough data to determine the threat of the organisms, but they will continue conducting data to assess the risk of each microbe.